I need me some rose-colored glasses


The kids and I met my mom for lunch the other day. My 5-year-old was still noshing on her macaroni and cheese (she’s a very mindful and subsequently ssslllloooowwww eater), but Thomas the Todzilla (my name for our super-cute but super-destructive toddler) was getting antsy, so I took him and my 4-year-old outside. They were busy admiring some rocks when my 4-year-old noticed the large body of water adjacent to the parking lot.

“Look at the beautiful lake, Mommy!” she said.

I glanced in the direction she was pointing, and all I saw was an ugly retaining pond.

Give me a pair of rose-colored glasses, please.

There’s a tendency to assume happy people have just had an easier go of things, but something my children as well as my own Pollyanna of a Mom have taught me over and over again is that a joyful life often hinges upon how you choose to see things. The glass is half-full. Life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. I could go crazy with the cliches.

There is pain in the world, but there are so many people handing out band-aids and doing good things to help those who hurt (think of how people rally together after a natural disaster or after something tragic like the Boston Marathon bombing). There is sickness, but there is healing, too, and even when there isn’t, it could be worse. That’s what my mom says when she wakes up in the middle of the night with debilitating, searing pain that just won’t go away. It could be so much worse. I live such a blessed life, she says. (Sometimes I really want her to scream, “Life sucks! It’s not fair!” But she doesn’t, at least never to me.)

There are beautiful lakes and ugly retaining ponds. What will I choose to see?

Rejoice! I shall say it again: rejoice!

the other mary

{Gratutious Joyful Child Photo}

Bonnie Engstrom, whom I had the pleasure of working with and meeting last year at the Behold Conference, invited me to participate in an Advent series over at her blog, A Knotted Life. It’s one of the few writing “assignments” I said yes to, and I’m glad I did. She gave me Gaudete Sunday, which seemed providential since all Advent long I’ve been receiving messages on how to lead a more joyful life – even in the wake of suffering, hardship, horrific tragedies like what happened in Connecticut, and Poopcassos*. I’ve included a morsel of my post below, but I hope you’ll consider reading the whole thing over at Bonnie’s space.

*A Poopcasso is a baby who, during his naptime, breaks and enters into his poopy diaper and delights in using stinky finger paint all over the walls and crib.

Happiness is all fine and good, but it passes with more frequency than my baby’s bowel movements. And that’s saying a lot considering my little man pooped three times just yesterday. In other words, happiness, which becomes happenstance when translated in Latin, is fleeting and at the whim of life’s circumstances. I feel happy when my husband and I sneak away for a date night – or just share a glass of vino at home before passing out from exhaustion. I’m not so happy when I step on a rogue Lego in bare feet or when all four of my children become nocturnal and offer me anything but a silent night.

Joy, on the other hand, comes from within; it resonates in your soul. You carry it with you even as you stumble through the day like a total “mombie.” Joy remains your companion even as you carry heavy crosses like a cancer diagnosis, the death of a child, or chronic, debilitating pain. I know people who are dealing with these kinds of struggles; yet, they’re still able to laugh, to savor the smallest of blessings in life, and to give thanks for their faith and their life as it is with ickiness, disease, and all. They look beyond the hand life has dealt them – a lousy hand right about now (good luck makes us happy; God makes us joyful even in the face of bad luck), and they choose joy. They choose Him.

That’s what the third Sunday of Advent known as Gaudete Sunday is all about. (Gaudete is Latin for rejoice.) It’s about choosing Him, choosing joy, and rejoicing even when life has you down. It’s about seeing the babe in the manger as more than a sweet symbol but as a gift – the only gift that matters, a vessel of hope. Yes, what’s to come is bigger and better than our limited human intellect could ever imagine. It’s what St. Paul encourages us to do: To consider it all – even the heartache, the burnt cookies, and the nuclear diapers – as joy.

Joy Personified

The images below are new, but some of the words are from an old Easter post from two years ago. That’s the thing about Truth. It’s always timely. Children grow and change. Babies become toddlers. Toddlers turn into preschoolers.

 Your first and second baby girls grow tall and lean, and you see beautiful glimpses of the lovely ladies they’re turning into. These are sweet girls who point out where Easter eggs are hidden to each other and make your younger brother laugh, “I was never that nice during our Easter egg hunts.”

Scrawny babies with chicken legs that are welcomed into the world after weeks of anxious bed rest turn into happy pudge balls. And my-oh-my how that baby face reminds you of your husband. Those eyes belong to him.

But Truth and God – these remain constant.

This was an emotional Easter. I hadn’t broken down in a long time and in the safety and security of my family, I cracked and a wellspring of  tears flowed freely. I felt silly at first. Guilty, too. Then I felt better.

Easter is always bittersweet for me if I’m honest. Reading my old post revealed I’d broken down on Holy Saturday and cried to my mama. She comforted me saying, “All will be fine.” Just like St. Julian of Norwich. “All will be well.” And it was. And it will be.

It’s just the luck of the draw, but my husband frequently has to work over Easter weekend, and I miss him. But I’m also missing something on a deeper level. People join the Church this time of year. I know of several wives whose husbands were welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass. I am overwhelmed with joy for them, but I’m selfishly sad, too. My own faith journey is solitary. Everyone’s journey is solitary, but I don’t have a spouse walking anywhere close to me, and I thought I would when I got married nearly a decade ago. My heart aches because of this. Yet, I remind myself that nothing is impossible with God. This marriage of mine is a great blessing; it is a part of His plan to teach a stubborn control freak child of His (um, me) to trust. So trust I will.

I was tired when I arrived home last night. Two out of the four kids fell asleep on the way home from my parents’. I was able to transport them to beds without waking them. My big girl helped me unload the van. I nursed a very tired baby boy to sleep.

I tidied up around the house, wishing to make it feel homey and uncluttered for when that husband  of mine (whom I really was missing) returned home from work late that night.

Then I decided to peruse the photos I’d snapped throughout the day. I hadn’t pulled out my real camera in a long time since I can capture quick shots with my phone, but this weekend I wanted to get some better closeups of the kids.  I don’t have a superb eye for photography, but I was fairly happy with the results of my weekend clicking.

As I looked through the photos, the theme that came to mind was joy. Pure joy. Joy personified in my children’s smiles and happiness. That joy replaced any feelings of guilt or bittersweetness and made me grateful.

Childhood, especially when there’s chocolate buried in baskets and Easter egg hunts, is a sermon on what it means to find joy. Big, silly dogs who are always licking your baby because they think he’s their puppy help to make you joyful, too.

No, my Lent wasn’t all that great. But with Easter Sunday, we get our own Groundhog Day, a glorious do-over, a fresh start, a chance to be made anew and to walk more closely with Jesus. And isn’t our God generous? We get 40 days of preparation and penance, but we get 50 days of feasting.

The Easter season is not an ordinary time, so be extraordinary.

As I mentioned during my morning radio interview this morning with Relevant Radio, let your kids jump in those spring mud puddles. What’s a little extra dirt? Pick flowers. Read books together in your backyard. Have a picnic. Throw a blanket on the floor if it’s raining. Enjoy your children instead if just managing them.

And remember this (these are the words from an older post):

We are an Easter people.

Hope abounds. It is not a hope based on a superficial optimism that is blind to the reality of suffering in the world. Rather, it is a deep trust in God and His love for us. This is not a season for despair or worry. Easter calls us to embrace the freedom from fear, and to hold onto the life, the peace, and the joy that Jesus died to give all of us.

We are an Easter people. With the hope of Easter so close to me, it’s easy to believe. But then I return to my life. I face my trials. I see the news headlines. And I’m tempted to give in to anger or doubt or even despair.

My heart has its ups and downs. My world is frequently a wobbly one, and it’s a challenge to find my balance. My faith isn’t as steady as I’d like it to be; yet, this Easter season is a good reminder that some things never change. The only one who can rob us from the joy that comes with being a Christian is ourselves. We are sure to lose much in life – jobs, loved ones, financial security, freedoms, good health, confidence in our future happiness and in the path of our life. Then there is God. He remains. He does not shift with the wind or with our woes. He is forever. Love is forever.  No one can take that away from us. I need to bury my doubt and let God and love live.

My kids are triumphant, glad to be able to proclaim, “Alleluia!” again.

That’s what Jesus gave us on that first Easter: A reason to say, “Alleluia!” again, a reason to hope, and joy that is ours for the taking even when life is downright hard.

This is what my children give me, too. A reason to hope. And joy. Lots of it.

Happy Easter!!!

*Stay tuned for an Easter giveaway!


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